I was recently reminiscing with my friend Eric Smith about some of the personalities who taught us at West Mon in the early 1940s. Two of them we spoke about at length:
Professor Alfred J. Thompson of Bristol was blind from birth and came to teach at West Mon about 1943. He was always accompanied by his wife who had to guide him everywhere. As the piano was on the hall stage, that’s where we had our music lessons with him. I remember being totally amazed the first time I saw him play the piano. I was learning the instrument at that time. He just placed his hands on the keyboard to find the keys and then he just played effortlessly and, of course, from memory. Later he wrote the school song which is featured elsewhere on this blog. Music lessons with “Toot” Steven had always been rather irregular and perfunctory but with Professor Thompson we really got down to it.
He lived just a few doors down from Park Terrace Methodist Church and held music appreciation classes at his home. Eric attended these and Professor Thompson gave him 40 records and a walnut record cabinet.
Miss Orella Jones was the glamour mistress at West Mon. As teenage boys we had an eye for this sort of thing and frequently talked about our mistresses’ qualities in a way which had little relation to their teaching abilities. Gilbert Garnett was frequently seen talking and laughing with Orella. I also remember Jehoida Brown – a prefect when I started at the school – when he visited the school in his army uniform earnestly chatting to her in the school hall. I suppose he would have only been about six years younger than Orella. She was leaning against the wall and Jehoida stood a couple of feet to the side with his hand leaning on the wall about a foot from the side of her head. I remember wondering what this cosy little tête-à-tête might have been about.
Orella was engaged to Tom Churchill who took me for French in Six Arts (written about earlier in this blog). Unfortunately he died quite young and Orella transferred to the Girls’ County School. Eric told me that she never married which I found quite surprising.
If any visitor has any recollections or photographs of either of these two members of West Mon’s staff I should be pleased to hear from them.